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By Patrick Dickson
Copyright 2014 Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has ordered the Defense Department to begin planning for a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan if a key security agreement between the two countries is not signed, the White House announced Tuesday.
In a phone call to Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Obama said that United States was still willing to negotiate a limited U.S. troop presence to train Afghan security forces and hunt al-Qaida. That will only happen, however, if Afghanistan signs a bilateral security agreement guaranteeing U.S. troops immunity from the Afghan legal system.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that the DOD would “move ahead with additional contingency planning to ensure adequate plans are in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014.”
While the “zero option” has been discussed by Obama administration officials and military leaders, this is the first time the DOD has formally been told to develop a plan, and is something of an escalation in the war of words with Karzai.